Brain-computer junction promises better access for people with paralysis.

Researchers have created a brain-computer interface (BCI) that, for the first time, allows people with tetraplegia to operate a commercially available tablet with the power of thought alone.

In the study, part of the BrainGate2 clinical trial, two people with Lou Gehrig’s disease and one with a spinal injury were able to browse the Web, play YouTube videos, stream music and email or text using an unmodified Google Nexus 9 tablet.

Led by Jaimie Henderson at Stanford University in the US and published in the journal PLOS One, the research used neural decoding software to interpret the brainwaves of subjects, who had electrodes implanted in the part of the brain that controls hand movement.

It works by having the person think about or try to execute a specific movement. This generates characteristic EEG output that is read by a computer as commands to control the tablet cursor via a wireless connection.

By imagining moving a hand, participants could guide the cursor across the tablet screen and by variously attempting to squeeze the hand or flex the arm they could enact a “click”.

The result was a suite of actions that are workaday for most people but life-changing for the three middle-aged subjects, two men and a woman.

Read the full article in Cosmos magazine here